The government of Japan on Monday decided to extend a soft loan of 4.9 billion Yen (approximately US $65 million) to the government of Pakistan, to assist the country in its effort to eradicate polio. The notes were signed and exchanged between Ambassador of Japan Hiroshi Oe, and Secretary Economic Affairs Division Abdul Wajid Rana, in Islamabad.
“This assistance is a good example of our commitment announced in the statement,” Ambassador Hiroshi Oe said.
The loan is set to be utilised to procure 165 million doses of Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) and to raise the allowance of vaccinators. However, the loan has been extended with concessionary terms; an interest rate of 0.01% per annum and a repayment period of 40 years, which includes 10-year grace period.
Meanwhile, the report of five more confirmed cases further underscored the government’s failure to make the country polio-free. The total number of polio cases reported in 2011 has now risen to 69, making Pakistan the only country where the disease is on rise. According to official sources three cases were reported and confirmed in Killa Abdullah, Balochistan and two in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
The death toll increased to 22 in Fata, six in Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa (K-P), 14 in Sindh, 26 in Balochistan (10 from Killa Abdullah ), one in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B). No cases have been reported in Punjab as of yet. Twenty-nine more cases of polio have been confirmed compared to last year.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Dr Altaf Boson, national manager of the polio programme, said Balochistan had the highest number of reported polio cases to-date due to the turmoil in the province.
“The polio situation is getting worse because of the current turmoil in the province … the polio teams can’t get access to each and every district to rid the province of the disease,” he said.
Poor management of the campaign at various districts, including Killa Abdullah and Pishin have also led to the spread of polio in previously unaffected areas such as Noshki, Kohlu and Khuzdar. Boson added that the government under the National Emergency Action Plan 2011 for Polio Eradication targeted 95 per cent coverage to the affected areas.
District managers and health department heads in all four provinces have been asked to strictly monitor and review the performance of polio teams and ensure complete transparency and accountability in the process.
Meanwhile official sources talking to The Express Tribune, said that after the devolution of the ministry of health, the task to eradicate polio from the country seemed a little more complicated.
“Earlier, everything was managed at the central level, there was uniformity in action but after the devolution, all provinces have been given the power to plan strategies on their own to eradicate polio,” official sources said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2011.